What can Broadway learn from the NBA lockout?

If you’re a basketball fan, you’ve been foaming at the mouth and ornery to everyone you know for the past couple o’ months, as you’ve suffered through B-Ball withdrawal thanks to the lockout.

Fear not, however, slam dunks and double-dribbles will return on Christmas day as a present to you all, now that a new 10 year agreement has been reached.

First class labor disputes in sports always catch my eye, because of the major similarity between the two sides of their negotiating table and the two sides of Broadway’s table:

  • Most of the owners of professional sports teams made money in other industries before getting involved with athletics.  (Sound like a lot of Producers you know?)
  • The players are the best in the world at what they do and can’t be replaced by others without weakening the product (Sound like a lot of actors/designers/directors/technicians you know?)

The specific causes of this year’s lock out stems from the claim of the owners that they were losing $300 million a year.  What’s interesting to me is that if you dig deeper and you find out that those losses come from 22 out of the 30 teams.  In other words, 74% of the teams were losing money, while 26% were making money.

Hmmmm . . . It is estimated that 20-30% of Broadway shows make money, and 70-80% lose money.

Coincidence?  Pareto’s Principle?

The owners sought to reduce salaries and salary caps, and after a ton of back and forth and the loss off two months of games, hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars, a settlement was reached . . . but not until the players dissolved their own union so they could be rep’d by individual lawyers and sue the League for an “illegal boycott.”

What a mess.

And that’s where I hope the similarities between our industries end.  Because no matter who won this dispute or any dispute . . . I can guarantee you who lost . . . The Fans.  And sure, the rabid mouth-foamers aren’t going to switch from B-Ball to baseball because a couple of months go by before they get to watch a game.  But those aren’t the fans I’d be worried about.  It’s the casual fan that they could lose.

And it’s the casual fan we could lose if we ever find ourselves in a situation like the above.

And that’s why all sides of our industry need to remember that there are no sides when it comes to our industry’s survival.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



– Come to the 4th Annual Producer’s Perspective Social on 12/15!  RSVP today.

– Win 2 tickets to see Bonnie and Clyde on Broadway!  Click here!

– Seminar Alert:  How to Invest in a Broadway Show on 12/10!  Click here for info.

Related Posts


Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.